Personal tablets could improve the quality of life of people living with dementia in long-term care homes.

The results of this study could not only improve the lives of residents with dementia but also help combat negative perception of their abilities.

Residents of long-term care facilities who are living with dementia could benefit from the use of personalized tablets, suggests a new research study conducted by scientists at the University Health Network’s KITE Research Institute. 

As part of the study, residents from seven long-term care homes in Ontario were provided tablets with access to the internet for personal use. The research team observed residents using the devices to create new connections, strengthen relationships with family, and keep themselves cognitively stimulated. 

The results of this study, which were published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, suggest that tablet use could not only improve the lives of residents with dementia, but also help combat negative perceptions of their abilities. 

The paper’s first author, KITE scientist Dr. Arlene Astell, delves deeper into its findings below. 

Which patient groups are most affected by this? 

Individuals living with dementia in long-term care homes and family members wishing to engage with them remotely and in person. 

What did you find? 

Personalized internet-connected tablets – DIT-TECH - provided residents with dementia in long-term care with multiple opportunities for engagement and meaningful occupation. Tablet usage averaged 7 minutes per day over 90 days, with 16% of participants averaging one hour per day accessing entertainment, news and weather, games, and translation applications. Remote access provided flexible new ways for family members to interact and engage.

Why does this matter? 

Cognitive stimulation and social connection are vital for residents in long-term care. However, many residents do not have their own devices, staff are too busy to set up videocalls or set up leisure applications, and internet availability is patchy. Leveraging existing video calling applications plus games and other pastimes, can maintain family relationships, and extend opportunities for social and cognitive stimulation for residents.

What is the potential impact? 

Raising awareness of the potential of existing devices (tablets and applications) to provide multiple opportunities for people living with dementia to improve their quality of life and positively impact family relationships. Using existing devices helps tackle stigma and negative perceptions of the abilities of individuals living with dementia to engage with and benefit from existing digital technologies.

Research Spotlight: 
Personalized Tablets for Residents in Long-Term Care

Associate Professor, Department of OS&OT and Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. Affiliate scientist KITE Research Institute.

Name of Publication: Personalized Tablets for Residents in Long-Term Care to Support Recreation and Mitigate Isolation